05/05/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
It began with a pair of red leather boots. Kathryn Eisman was 4 years old, and she just had to have them. Then came the black patent-leather Mary Janes. "I slept with them on," she recalls. But despite the Manolo Blahniks that line the floor of her Manhattan penthouse, Eisman, now 21, has shifted her focus to men's footwear. Last year no less than Britain's Prince Andrew asked for her take on his brown suede shoes at a dinner in Sydney. "I told him if he were a woman, he would be the sort to wear beautiful lingerie to feel special for himself," says Eisman. "We reveal ourselves in details. There's the pointy toe and the square toe and the pointy square toe. To someone who doesn't understand shoes, it sounds like an irrelevant distinction." Then she adds, laughing, "But for someone like me, it's everything."
Now Eisman is sharing her expertise with women all over the world. Her lighthearted guide How to Tell a Man by His Shoes was recently published in the U.S. after becoming a bestseller in Eisman's native Australia last year. The book identifies 27 types of souls, including Motorcycle Boot Man ("startlingly selfish and unreliable"), "Wing-Tip Man ("very set in his ways"), and Converse All Star Man. (To win his affection, "buy yourself some sexy panties and make him eggs on white toast while wearing them and little else," she advises.) "The idea of the book sounds so ridiculous," says Good Morning America producer Marc Honaker; last December Eisman examined audience members' shoes on the air. "It was uncanny how accurate her readings were."
Her insights were first honed in the upscale Sydney suburb where Kathryn, her sister Jacqui, 29, a business analyst, and brother Daniel, 23, a recent college grad, were raised. She spent her childhood practicing piano, writing poetry and playing word games with her father, Peter, 61, a pediatrician. "As a young child she would sit and observe everyone, even at birthday parties," says her mother, Sylvia, 52, who teaches English. "I thought, 'Why isn't she running around and screaming like other little children?' "
After high school, the straight-A student spent a year working full-time as a model, until she decided that "I desperately missed academics." She studied journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney while writing Shoes. In January she decided on a whim to move to Manhattan, where she is still looking for Mr. Right. Her preference: a "slightly squared-off-polished-but-not-too-shiny-dress-boot man," she says. Motorcycle boots need not apply.
Karen S. Schneider
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